I first "met" Chuck a little over a year ago. At the time, I was working at the big-time Nashville rag, albeit in a small-time position. I was a sports clerk for the Tennessean, meaning my Friday and Tuesday nights were consumed by the constant dinging of telephone calls.
Most of the time, the person on the line was a manager or an assistant coach from Macon County or Hohenwald or Maplewood calling with a score from their respective high school sporting event.
Other times there were calls like this:
"Yo man! Can you tell me if a dude named Jonathan Montgomery played basketball for Vanderbilt in the 1980s?" Loud music and chatter in the background.
"Uh, yeah, I just Googled it... looks like he played from 1982-1984."
"BOOM!! TOLD Y'ALL!! Thanks man! (click.)"
Then, there was Chuck.
Once billed as "Nashville's biggest sports fan," Chuck would call the Tennessean, on average, every half hour. He'd ask about his David Lipscomb Mustangs (Lipscomb University's adjoined high school).
C: "Hey, who is this?" he'd say in a muffled voice.
P: "It's Pierce, Chuck, how's it going?"
C: "Pierce buddy, you got that David Lipscomb score?"
P: "No, Chuck, it's only 7:30... the game just started..."
There would then be a subsequent call every half hour until the game was over. I didn't mind fielding Chuck's calls -- but once scores started rolling in and the phone didn't stop ringing, I had to apply some necessary rudeness to get Chuck off the phone.
One time, knowing Chuck was a Lipscomb fan, I engaged him in some Atlantic Sun basketball talk. When I revealed my allegiance as a Belmont student - along with a few jabs about Lipscomb's team -- he went off on me.
"I'm gonna getchya! I'm gonna getchya!" he yelled through the phone. "I'll have you fired!!"
Apparently, getting fired by Chuck was a right of passage -- and I had arrived.
At the end of basketball season last year, my job at the Tennessean was over -- and I never really heard from or thought of Chuck again.
As I walked into Allen Arena for Lipscomb's bout with Mercer, there was Chuck. He was on the court, in a wheelchair with his signature purple and gold pom-pons.
The 1982 Lipscomb team was honored before the game and Chuck was a part of the team.
The announcer bellowed his name along with the rest of the team and he got the loudest applause from the modest crowd.
For most of the game, I thought of how I could (or if I should) introduce myself to Chuck. After all, we had collectively spent hours on the phone together. Would he remember me? Would it be weird? Might it just confuse him?
As Lipscomb was stifling Kennesaw State's offense, I watched as Chuck essentially had a receiving line of people coming up, shaking his hand, and patting him on the back.
At halftime, the court at Lipscomb was dedicated to the NCAA all-time leader in wins, Coach Don Meyer. During Meyer's acceptance speech, he singled out Chuck.
"I'd also like to thank the ultimate team player, Chuck Ross!" Meyer said. He lauded his dedication and wished him a happy birthday.
That was my "in." In the second half, Chuck was wheeled to the upper ring around the arena, maybe 50 feet from my seat.
I walked over to him, stuck out my hand and said "Happy Birthday, Chuck." He took my hand and nodded. Then, I walked away.
In an age of passive-aggressive tweets and texts, Chuck is a man never afraid of communication. In fact, he thrives on it.
The folks at the Tennessean aren't the only ones that hear from Chuck -- he also calls the weathermen and local sports anchors on TV and anyone else who will talk. (Jim Davy, who wrote a book on Chuck's life, said: ""Chuck has distributed more information and asked more questions over the phone than perhaps anyone in the civilized world.")
Yes, Chuck is a symbol of dedication, attending every Lipscomb sporting event. But he also represents a dwindling era of people who think nothing of speaking their mind: in face, or over the phone.
Social barriers don't occur to Chuck -- and that's a beautiful thing.
In a lot of ways, I'm envious.
at LIPSCOMB 75, KENNESAW STATE 52 12/03/2011
KENNESAW STATE 2-5 (0-2) -- S. Dixon 5-16 0-2 11; M. Cummings 6-13 3-7 15; A. Anderson 2-7 2-4 6; D. Love 0-5 0-0 0; N. Turner 4-8 0-0 10; R. Henry 1-3 2-4 5; B. Dawson 1-5 0-0 2; M. Sabic 1-2 0-0 3; A. Osemhen 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-61 7-17 52. LIPSCOMB 5-4 (1-1) -- J. Glenn 5-6 1-2 11; R. Boyd 4-13 0-2 9; D. Smith 5-5 0-2 11; J. Burgason 3-10 0-0 8; J. Arnett 3-7 0-0 7; M. Williams 2-5 0-0 4; D. Alexander 2-6 0-0 5; M. Smith 7-13 2-4 16; M. Smith 0-2 0-0 0; Z. Williams 0-0 0-0 0; C. Sanderson 1-1 2-2 4; C. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-68 5-12 75.
Three-point goals: KENN 5-18 (S. Dixon 1-6; R. Henry 1-2; N. Turner 2-4; M. Sabic 1-1; B. Dawson 0-1; D. Love 0-4), LIP 6-22 (J. Arnett 1-2; J. Burgason 2-6; R. Boyd 1-7; D. Smith 1-1; D. Alexander 1-4; M. Smith 0-2); Rebounds: KENN 34 (A. Anderson 13), LIP 46 (J. Glenn 15); Assists: KENN 10 (M. Cummings 4), LIP 17 (D. Smith 9); Total Fouls -- KENN 14, LIP 16; Fouled Out: KENN-None; LIP-None.